St. Charles officials to continue to work to make sure residents are wearing face coverings

ST. CHARLES – City officials will continue to work to make sure that residents are wearing face masks or coverings in public places as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

They discussed the matter during Monday's Government Operations Committee meeting. On April 24, St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina issued an executive order that everyone over the age of 2 is required to wear some sort of face covering over their nose and mouth while in a public place and six foot social distance cannot be achieved.

The order also states a face covering should be worn when engaging in essential activities like shopping for necessary supplies and services, seeking medical supplies or medication, visiting a heath professional or riding public transportation.

Violators are subject to fines starting at $50 per violation. The order took effect May 1 in conjunction with a statewide mask order.

Those entering the Municipal Center have abided by the mask order.

"In the Municipal Center here, we've found people to be cooperative and seeming to understand why the mask is important," City Administrator Mark Koenen told aldermen.

Earlier in the day, Gov. JB Pritzker launched a $5 million public awareness campaign encouraging residents to wear masks or face coverings. The theme of the campaign is "It only works if you wear it."

He launched the campaign as parts of the state are seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases. The West Suburban region (DuPage and Kane counties) has seen four days of positivity increases and four days of hospital admission increases. Currently 37% of medical/surgical beds are available and 47% of ICU beds.

The St. Charles Police Department has tried to educate people about the need for face coverings and social distancing.

"It takes a while to educate folks," St. Charles Police Chief James Keegan said. "We pass out brochures. We offer free personal protective equipment. We really try to do our best to work with people. If we do get complaints at area businesses, once again, we try to mitigate that by talking to the folks. Sometimes, we have referred complaints to the Kane County Health Department."

Keegan said the department would rather try to educate people than hand out fines. He thinks it will take time to educate people about the need to wear face coverings, just like it took time to convince people to wear seatbelts.

In this month's city newsletter, Rogina reminds residents to wear face coverings as the number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois continues to increase. Gov. JB Pritzker has said that certain health metrics could trigger a rollback of reopening guidelines.

"It is in no one’s best interest to regress to a previous phase that confines the marketplace and creates frustration, anxiety and economic hardship," Rogina said. "It is incumbent upon all of us to stymie the virus by wearing masks, practicing good hygiene and social distancing. The employers and employees of business establishments need to lead by example; there is much at stake. Customers should be responsible to others."

First Ward Alderman Ron Silkaitis voiced concerns that the area could return to the previous restrictions that were in place if the area is not able to get things under control.

"If we don't fix it now, we're going to pay a price later," he said.